New Hampshire

It’s New Hamp­shire Pri­ma­ry Day, (already?!), but I’m not going to make any pre­dic­tions. Hillary? Oba­ma? McCain? Huck­abee? The polls have swung dra­mat­i­cal­ly in the past week or so, in both par­ties. And, it seems that the coun­try is com­ing to one of those cul­tur­al tip­ping points that only occur once or twice per generation.

Some have com­pared this cycle to the elec­tion years of 1992, 1980, 1960… But, per­haps it’s more like the first months of 1968, before the assas­si­na­tions of Bob­by Kennedy and Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. derailed all hope, as well as the cam­paign of Eugene McCarthy. We find our­selves in an unpop­u­lar war that nobody knows how to get out of, sad­dled with an lame duck Pres­i­dent with low approval rat­ings, and no sit­ting Vice Pres­i­dent in the race, and we’re fac­ing some eco­nom­ic uncer­tain­ty ahead. Still, there is hope on both sides of the aisle.

Is it a gen­er­a­tional tip­ping point? Are we as a nation head­ing toward a year much like that annus hor­ri­bilis of 1968? Nobody knows at this point, but maybe it’s best not to look back for com­par­isons – every­one across the polit­i­cal spec­trum is eager to move forward.

Matt Bai has a post in The Cau­cus today, cau­tion­ing against com­par­ing Oba­ma to the Kennedys:

Every four years, it seems, since I first became aware of pol­i­tics, Democ­rats have been try­ing to trans­form some­one into a Kennedy, almost always with dis­ap­point­ing results. Some­times it’s the can­di­date with “youth­ful vig­or,” like a Gary Hart or a Bill Clin­ton. Oth­er times it’s been the guy with stir­ring anti-war speech­es (Howard Dean), or a sense of ide­o­log­i­cal puri­ty (Bill Bradley), or even just the right hair and accent (John Kerry).

Pre­em­i­nent fem­i­nist Glo­ria Steinem reminds us that women are nev­er front-run­ners, even if you’re a Clinton:

Gen­der is prob­a­bly the most restrict­ing force in Amer­i­can life, whether the ques­tion is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This coun­try is way down the list of coun­tries elect­ing women and, accord­ing to one study, it polar­izes gen­der roles more than the aver­age democracy.

The New Yorker’s Ryan Liz­za notes an iron­ic twist at the post-Iowa Clin­ton event:

Change,” as just about every­one in Iowa under­stood, had become the most impor­tant word in this Pres­i­den­tial campaign.

…so it seemed rather lucky that her cam­paign had found an event space with a ver­sion of that slo­gan inscribed in the archi­tec­ture. But, on clos­er inspec­tion, it turned out that the phrase was part of an exhib­it for the mam­moths, long extinct, that once roamed what is now Iowa. The skele­ton of one of the beasts loomed omi­nous­ly a few yards from the Clin­tons, and the museum’s exhib­it explained that the mam­moths were wit­ness­es to change because they “watched as their world dis­ap­peared and their dom­i­nance was usurped.”

Everyone’s favorite con­ser­v­a­tive colum­nist David Brooks com­pares McCain and Obama’s oppos­ing polit­i­cal cul­tures:

Both Barack Oba­ma and John McCain attract inde­pen­dents. Both have a can­dor that appeals to vot­ers and media-types alike. Both ask their audi­ences to serve a cause greater than self-inter­est. Both offer a pol­i­tics that is grand and inspiring.

But they are very dif­fer­ent men. Their poli­cies obvi­ous­ly con­flict, but their skills, world views and moral philoso­phies set them apart, too. One man cel­e­brates com­mu­ni­tar­i­an virtues like uni­ty, the oth­er clas­si­cal virtues like honor.

And final­ly, if you missed it in this past Sun­day, there was an inter­est­ing piece in the Times’ Mag­a­zine that exam­ines Mor­monism, and why the evan­gel­i­cal right does­n’t seem will­ing to embrace Mitt Romney:

…what began as a strat­e­gy of secre­cy to avoid per­se­cu­tion has become over the course of the 20th cen­tu­ry a strat­e­gy of min­i­miz­ing dis­cus­sion of the con­tent of the­ol­o­gy in order to avoid being treat­ed as reli­gious pari­ahs. As a result, Mor­mons have not devel­oped a series of eas­i­ly expressed and eas­i­ly swal­lowed state­ments sum­ma­riz­ing the con­tent of their the­ol­o­gy in ways that might arguably be accept­ed by main­line Protes­tants. To put it blunt­ly, the com­bi­na­tion of secret mys­ter­ies and resis­tance in the face of oppres­sion has made it increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult for Mor­mons to talk open­ly and suc­cess­ful­ly with out­siders about their reli­gious beliefs.

It’s going to be an inter­est­ing night, and an inter­est­ing (if not short) Pri­ma­ry season.

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